Call for ‘common sense’ guidelines

By Gillian McKenzie

CAMRA has called for a public consultation on alcohol consumption guidelines, saying current government advice on drinking is “at odds with common sense”.

• More than half (51%) of people disagree with alcohol guidelines.
• More than half (51%) of people disagree with alcohol guidelines.

Publishing the results of a YouGov poll carried out on behalf of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the consumer group said more than half of the 2040 people surveyed disagree with official health guidelines on consumption, while 61% agree that “moderate alcohol consumption could be part of a healthy lifestyle”.
CAMRA said that 51% of those polled disagree with the Chief Medical Officers’ decision that consumption guidelines should be the same for men and women.
In January, the UK Chief Medical Officers lowered the alcohol consumption guideline for men from 21 units a week to 14 units, in line with women, and warned that “drinking any level of alcohol increases the risk of a range of cancers”.
CAMRA is now calling on the Department of Health to launch a consultation into “whether alcohol guidelines are fit for purpose and evidence-based”.
“If the government wants people to take the guidance seriously then it needs to present people with realistic and believable advice, which they can use to judge their own risk when it comes to responsible drinking,” said CAMRA chairman Colin Valentine. “If the public feels, as our figures suggest, that the guidelines are not credible and lack  evidence, the danger is they will increasingly just ignore them.”
Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said CAMRA is “completely correct” to call for a consultation.
“Units were plucked out of the air years ago and by propaganda and other methods became the ‘norm’ for responsible drinking,” he said.
“To then cut the guidelines when you’ve got professor Spiegelhalter, a risk expert at Cambridge University, saying there’s more risk in watching TV for an hour a day or eating a bacon roll a couple of times a week is just nonsense.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “The alcohol guidelines give people the latest and most up to date scientific information so that they can make an informed decision about their drinking.
“This was the most comprehensive look at all the evidence on alcohol in 20 years.
“The review team looked at all the studies on the protective effects of alcohol, but concluded that the protective effect was overestimated for most people.”